We awoke at the the Isle of Noss, a nature reserve owned by the Scottish Trust. We have left Norway and have arrived in the United Kingdom! Last night, we passed a few oil platforms and ships as we crossed the North Sea.
Our zodiac cruise around the cliffs of the island were fantastic, zillions of birds coming and going and nesting on the ledges of the cliffs. It’s hard to capture the size and scope of the area in pictures. One of the more predominant birds is the northern Gannet, a white bird with black wing tips and a beige head. The two things you must remember when zodiacing with flying birds is wear a hat, and if you look up, keep your mouth closed! A walk was offered as an alternative, and we saw some of them at the tops of the cliffs – look hard in the photos…
In the afternoon, we landed at Lerwick, the largest city on Shetland. (Note: locals never call this area the Shetland Islands, just Shetland). It is a beautiful city, with many of the buildings and older houses made of large stone blocks. It is clearly a prosperous area, with nice houses and sail boats all around. The population of Lerwick is about 8,000, about a third of the total population of 22,000. The economy is varied, with a large part coming from fishing and fish farming (salmon and mussels). Another major component is servicing the oil industry. There is an oil depot at the top of the island, and supplies are moved through here to the scads of platforms in the North Sea. Next comes sheep and other agricultural products.
We took a walk around town and visited their museum, a great place giving the entire history of the island, from the geology of the rocks, the initial settlements starting around 6,000 years ago, to the modern economy. The climate here is mild for being so far north, due to the impact of the Gulf Stream which ends here. It snows a few times a year, but only a few inches and it melts quickly.
Before dinner, we had the piping in of the Haggis, with a local bag-piper providing excellent entertainment. After a few tunes, Patrick, our Swedish Hotel Manager, was wearing his Scottish kilt as he presented the Haggis on a silver platter. There was a formal cutting open of the Haggis, and we then followed the Haggis into the dinning room.
We had Haggis as an appetizer with Patties (mashed potatoes) and Tatties (mashed turnips), chased with a shot of whiskey — which was all quite good. Haggis is a sausage-like product made of assorted sheep parts and barley, stuffed traditionally in a sheep stomach to cure. Check it out on Wikipedia if you want more details.